Difference between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Key difference: Both ‘yams’ and ‘sweet potatoes’ are renowned to be the top-notch health foods. They both offer different health benefits and different culinary uses, and each vegetable yields its own completely unique and different profile.

The terms ‘Sweet Potatoes’ and ‘Yams’ are used interchangeably, and are thought to be the same. However, these two vegetables are quite different and are not really related to each other.

Sweet Potato is a ‘dicot’; a plant having two seed leaves. This plant belongs to the Convolvulacea or the morning glory family.

Sweet potatoes are uniformly shaped; the tubers are elongated with ends that taper to a point. They are yellow or orange in color and are of two dominant types; pale skin and dark skin. The pale skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with a pale yellow flesh; it is not sweet in taste and has a dry, crumbly texture, which is similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned variety has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange flesh. It has a sweet taste and a moist texture, which is often mistaken as ‘yam’ while cooking.

Also, many varieties of sweet potatoes are classified based on their ‘firmness’ or ‘softness’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while the ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. They are popular in South America and are widely eaten in all parts of the world. The popular varieties of sweet potatoes are Centennial, Gold-rush, New Jersey, Velvet, Georgia Red and Puerto Rico.

Yams are monocots; a plant with single seed leaves. This plant belongs to the ‘Dioscoreaceae’ or the lilies or grasses family, and it is not even distantly related to the sweet potato family.  

A true yam is a tuber of the tropical vine plant. The yam tubers have brown or black skin color with purple, white or red flesh depending on the type. They come in many varieties. The tubers can be as small as regular potatoes or can grow upto five feet long. They are sweeter than the sweet potatoes and have higher moisture content.

The word yam comes from the African words ‘njam, nyami, or djambi’, which means ‘to eat’. The yams are considered important because of their long storage value. Yams are typically peeled, boiled and mashed, or dried and grounded into a powder and are cooked into porridge. They are home grown in tropical climates, primarily in South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Yams are a popular vegetable in Latin America and the Caribbean markets, with over 150 varieties available worldwide. They are also marketed by their Spanish names, ‘boniato’ and ‘ñame’.

Comparison between Sweet Potatoes and Yams:


Sweet Potatoes



They belong to the ‘Convolvulacea’ or the morning glory family.

They belong to the ‘Dioscoreaceae’ or the lilies or grasses family.


  • It is dicot in nature.
  • It has two seed leaves.
  • It is monocot in nature.
  • It has one seed leaf.


They are more uniformly shaped with tapered ends.

They are long and elongated in shape.

Skin color

Their skin color ranges from yellow, orange or red. 

Their skin color ranges from black, brown or pink. 

Flesh color

They are orange or yellow in color.

They are purple, white or red in color.


They are less sweet in taste.

They are sweeter in taste.

Moister content

They have low moisture content.

They have high moisture content.


They are smaller in size.

They are large in size.

Image Courtesy: beautyhealthtips.in, spiceflair.com

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